Klaus Obermeyer going strong on his 99th birthday: stay positive, look for win-win living
The Aspen Times
Klaus Obermeyer celebrated his 99th birthday Monday the way he likes it — with a Bavarian band, apfelstrudel mit schlag and surrounded by scores of friends, family and co-workers.
His annual party was held at the Aspen Business Center headquarters of Sport Obermeyer, the ski-wear company he founded in 1947 in Aspen and continues to oversee.
The Aspen Times caught up with Obermeyer on Friday to ask him how he has aged so gracefully. He was, as usual, in good spirits with his personal life and his company’s performance this year. A strong start to the winter in almost all of the country has spurred strong sales at the retail outlets that sell Obermeyer clothing, he said. His philosophy on life shined through when he was asked what’s new in his life over the past year.
“There’s so much new, it’s a dynamic world that we’re living in and dancing in, which makes it very wonderful,” he said. “It never gets to wondering, ‘Oh, what should we do next?’ There’s always opportunity to make things better.”
Aspen Times: I was hoping to talk to you about your thoughts on how you have lived so long and remained in great shape, if you don’t mind.
Klaus: “The philosophy that I apply in my life and for the company is to create win-win situations, never make a win-lose. That keeps everybody happy. Our suppliers are happy, our dealers are happy and consumers are happy. So whatever it takes to get a win-win, that’s kind of the thing to do.”
AT: Tell me a little bit about your exercise routine.
Klaus: “I swim half a mile every day, very slow, breaststroke and on my back, half of it. And when I’m on my back I see the nice houses on Red Mountain.
“I work out on the machines in the club. I think we get by nature a gift by having a body. If we don’t use it, it goes to hell, so it’s really important to keep using it. Do pushups and whatever you can to keep it going.
“Aikido is a great martial arts that has a wonderfulness to it. In Aikido you don’t hurt your partner, you control your partner. If you hurt him, he may come back two days later and hit you with a two-by-four. Aikido brings about peace. Aikido exists spiritually as well as physically. The older you get, the more you use of the spiritual part and a little less on the mat.”
AT: Anything special diet-wise?
Klaus: “You don’t want to eat more than you burn off. If you eat more than you burn off you have to carry around all kinds of stuff unnecessarily. I think Aspen and Colorado, it has a climate that’s ideal for outdoor exercises, for skiing, for mountain climbing, for tennis, you name it.”
AT: What about the power of positive thinking?
Klaus: “Everybody has that opportunity. It’s our choice of perception. How do we perceive the world around us? We can perceive it negatively and go to hell or we can perceive it positively and make it work well and go to heaven, you know, play with the angels.
“We have that wonderful freedom, every one of us. First of all and foremost, we should be thankful for our planet. We have a very, very special planet, with all that life that over billions of years has developed. It’s amazing. It’s just absolutely fantastic in plants and animals. We need to lead our lives as much as possible to disturb that very little. Keep the air clean.”
AT: Do you think genetics have played a role in your longevity?
Klaus: “I had a great-grandfather on my mom’s side that lived to be 112. That was before penicillin.
“I think I have a good life. I love Aspen. It’s so nice. Also, the people that Aspen has attracted who have built here or moved here part-time, they’re very intelligent and successful people and have given Aspen a very positive kind of air.”
Obermeyer also continues to ski. Later in the interview, he pointed out: “If I live to be 103, then I will have skied 100 years.”
AT: How important is it to be active in your business and mentally active?
Klaus: “I have very good people working with me. They have been with us for quite awhile, most of them. It’s kind of like a dance on a floor that’s moving. But you always end up where you aim for. Aim is a very important thing in one’s life. It you aim up Aspen Mountain, you’re not going to go up Red Mountain. It’s a powerful thing. We aim as a company to make technically responsible and well-working clothing for the outdoors, mainly for the winter, and then guarantee them for life. We want to have happy customers and do it at a price that isn’t outrageous, so many people can afford it. That’s made our company grow. Every year we grow some.”
AT: Do you think it’s important for you to stay active in the business?
Klaus: “Oh, absolutely. I’m down here every day but I have the gift of wonderful people who help me and are very, very good and honest and share the philosophy of the win-win.”